Evidence of first beam—1971 at Fermilab in Illinois, and 2008 at the Large Hadron Collider on the French-Swiss border—was and is but a tiny blip on a screen.
But when it comes to reading out data events in the detectors placed at points along the beam, a lot has changed.
In 1971, the only way to do distributed data analysis was to get on a plane with a heavy box of data tapes.
Last week, the grid computing infrastructure in place allowed CMS calorimeter experts at Fermilab—7000 km away—to see how their detector components responded within minutes of beam traversal.
Raw data files were transferred from CERN to Fermilab within an hour, and reconstructed data files arrived shortly after they were produced.
The offline data operations team for first beam was at CERN, but thanks to the grid, by the afternoon Geneva time, responsibility had rotated to the Fermilab team at the Remote Operations Center.
Then and now: witnessing first beam
Excerpt from Popular Mechanics article by Philip Taylor
Some 400 physicists, engineers and students just finished camping out here at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory through the night, awaiting the birth of an extreme machine so powerful that it could soon reveal what lent mass to the universe in the first place. At around 2:34 a.m., a fuzzy white ball appeared on a projection screen outside Fermilab’s Remote Operations Center amid a sea of gray, framed by what looked like a rifle scope. “There it is,” a voice rumbled throughout the room, offering a televised, play-by-play commentary of the beam’s launch from the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) headquarters 4400-plus miles away in Switzerland. “Did you see the flash?”
Compare this to the July 8, 1971 account of first beam at NAL:
Excerpt from The Village Crier Vol. 3 No. 27
In the Control Room, about 20 persons observed the tiny closed circuit television sets that seemed only to blink on and off, but which really were recording another milestone in the development of the National Accelerator Laboratory.
At mid-morning Wednesday, June 30, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the Laboratory issued a brief statement. It read:
"A proton beam was guided through the entire National Accelerator Laboratory accelerator system for the first time at 6:44 a.m. CTD, Wednesday, June 30, 1971. The beam was accelerated to 7 BeV (Billion electron volts, now called GeV) in the linear accelerator and the booster accelerator system and then 'coasted' through the largest component in the NAL accelerator system—the main accelerator, which is four miles in circumference.”